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Gas and Air Post Mortem (although, it’s not dead)

Posted by (twitter: @triplevisgames)
Saturday, August 31st, 2013 1:39 am

I posted this first on my site tripleVisionGames.com so feel free to swing by there!

Gas and Air – a Post Mortem

gasAir

This was the worst weekend for a game jam.

We’re in the middle of moving house, I had tickets to a football match, it was my Mum’s birthday and we were having a celebration tea and, on the Sunday, we were driving the 100 plus miles down to Stratford-Upon-Avon to stay with family and due to leave at 9:30 in the morning.

Factor in the hangover I had planned on both the Saturday and the Sunday, and I figured I probably had something like 6 hours of time at my computer. 6 hours! It was probably going to take me that long to think of an idea!

Like I said, this was the worst weekend for a game jam.

Time Boost!

As it turned out, I did actually manage to double that 6 hours with the help of a couple of early mornings (this was tough with the evenings’ excessive consumption of wine) and an extremely apologetic delay to the journey on Sunday. Still, with 12 hours it was going to be a bit of a push to get anything decent done. What I needed was a plan.

Sadly, I’m a little bit crap at this planning lark and I really didn’t have time anyway so I just made a quick list of what I could do to cut down the time I needed at my PC to put the game together. The usual suspects came up:

– Small scope.

– No, smaller scope.

– Nope. SMALLER.

– Yep that’s more like it.

– Ok maybe have at least 1 mechanic in there.

– Simple art style.

– Gameplay that doesn’t require a tutorial.

And that’s about it. If I could stick to the above rules, there was a chance I might be able to get something finished that, while it might be little more than a prototype, would be fun to play and have a decent amount of polish.

All The Small Things

When considering the design of the game, there were a number of things that are important to me as a designer. These are things that I aim for in all of my games, and they boil down to 3 core concepts: Cohesion, good feel and polish. Polish is actually a new addition to this; at least in how much focus I now put on this area. Previously, polish would consist of the last 5% or so of the development process.

This is not enough time.

After pestering game developers at Rezzed for advice (in particular the guys from Vlambeer about going from a prototype to something as awesome as Luftrausers) I was given the following piece of advice:

“Spend a week making the game. Spend 6 months polishing it.”

They may not have been the exact words, or the exact amount of time quoted or whatever, but that was the message I took away. Clearly I was quite seriously skimping on polish! Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to commit 90% of it to polishing the game, which would have left me with an hour for everything else, but I decided I would start focussing on the polish of it from the halfway point.

I ended up having enough time to do quite a bit: sounds (using a gas stove, shoes dropped on the bed and me blowing a raspberry), screen shake (small shake when you have the power on and big shake when you crash), particle effects (with hand drawn particles, naturally), bobbing icebergs, bobbing and tilting oil cans, layered clouds, explosion (each frame hand drawn), reflections and the effect of the reflections as they pass over the icebergs. It was lucky I’d saved so much time for polish! I’ve still got a long list of extra polish I want to add, so that’ll be happening at some point.

Once I had got in the basic coding for the mechanics, most of the time up to that halfway mark was spent testing and tweaking the feel of moving the balloon around the screen. I actually would have liked to have tweaked this a little further, making the screen speed up smoothly based on your x-position, but ran out of time. This is something I’m going to be implementing in the post-jam version, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

Pen and Paper Gaming

You may have noticed that I haven’t covered what I mean by cohesion yet. That’s because there almost wasn’t going to be a great deal of cohesion to Gas and Air. Originally my idea was to control a helicopter flying over Vietnam and rescuing soldiers while enemy troops were shooting at you. A similar kind of control method, although I’d have spent the time tweaking the controls to make it feel like a helicopter rather than a balloon.

I’d also come up with a cunning plan. As the time I could spend at my PC was so heavily restricted, I’d been trying to think of a way that I could still work on the game without being sat at my desk. Other than design, of which I was trying to keep to a minimum anyway, there wasn’t much I could think of. And then I was just doodling, as I tend to do most of the day, and started randomly drawing a hot air balloon that was on an advert on the telly.

That was it! I could just hand draw everything and scan it in. That would buy me countless extra hours to work on the game without needing to be at my PC! And then the ideas all began to pour out. It all seemed to fit together. A hand drawn old map style, a helicopter??? No, something didn’t fit.

I tried drawing a few helicopters but a) they looked rubbish and b) there was a weird disconnect. Then I looked down at the doodling I’d been doing and realised the answer was there for me already: a hot air balloon. It made sense. It fitted. It meant that I could make everything in the design, the mechanics, the aesthetics, the control scheme and the ‘narrative’ (for what it is) all work together.

To be fair I was pretty chuffed. I’m really happy with the coherence of the game how it turned out and feel like it’s left me with a really good base game to build something totally awesome on top of.

What Would I Do Differently?

I felt that my scope for this game, bearing in mind the short number of hours I had available, was about right. There were other mechanics that I would have loved to have implemented, but the time cost was just too high and I would have risked not finishing at all. I’m really happy with the look and feel of the game, but wish I’d spent less time tweaking the controls and more time working on the flow of the levels as they’re pretty much completely random at the moment so you can have an easy and boring run with a massive gap between anything happening (this even happens on the difficult runs).

But the biggest thing I would do differently is refrain from alcohol for the weekend. The hangovers, despite not being major curled over the loo hangovers, had a massive impact on my productivity. Simple things were much more difficult and obvious bugs were even harder to spot than they are when my eyes are actually capable of maintaining focus.

From now on, I’m a teetotal jammer! Although I’ll likely indulge when there’s no game dev stuff planned so by all means feel free to still invite me out for a drink!

Post Jam Plans

The October Challenge is something I have never done. If you’re not aware, it’s a Ludum Dare month long challenge whereby you take a game you’ve been working on and try to make $1 from it. I’m in 2 minds about how to go about this (not sure about taking a jam game to FGL but I think it’s where it will be most suited), but Gas and Air has received the most positive reaction out of anything I have ever made, so I think it’s a pretty good bet that it’s my best chance of making a dollar with it!

The plan is to expand it so that it is more of a full game. I have other mechanics that I intend to introduce, but it won’t be straying far from the more relaxed endless runner feel I was going for with the jam entry. There’ll certainly be more to keep you occupied, more hazards requiring different approaches and more to do. I also plan to have a world map with different areas you can explore, such as the tropics for example.

Everything I add will all be in the same art style as I do feel it helps it all fit together really well. I’m quite looking forward to doing some hand drawn animation for stuff like polar bears and whales spurting water at you. Should be fun!

Anyway, I should stop writing now as I’ve got plenty more entries to get playing, rating and commenting, and so do you! So let’s get on with it!

Finally decided on a name!

Posted by (twitter: @triplevisgames)
Sunday, August 25th, 2013 2:59 am

Ok, thanks to everyone on twitter for all the suggestions but after everything I’ve gone with the suggestion from my frustratingly smarter than me wife…

“Gas and Air!”

Although I did manage to make it a little bit more pretentious by adding a good number of extra words at the beginning, as demonstrated below:

7242440

Sadly I can’t do any more now despite a million things left on the to do list as I have to go on a three hour drive to visit family. Looks like I’ll have to do a post jam version too so keep your eyes out for that!

Hope everyone else is having fun with theirs!

Work in progress

Posted by (twitter: @triplevisgames)
Saturday, August 24th, 2013 6:00 am

imageFirst screenshot.

Here we go again…

Posted by (twitter: @triplevisgames)
Thursday, August 22nd, 2013 11:33 pm

I’m in. Last attempt was a disaster so this time I’m making the simplest, tiniest game II can possibly make.

Flashpunk, biro, paper and a scanner will be my tools of choice.

Good luck everyone!

Third time lucky?

Posted by (twitter: @triplevisgames)
Monday, December 10th, 2012 2:14 pm

Hey all

So, really looking forward to another Ludum Dare. Ever since my first attempt back in April I really feel like I’ve learned a lot about how to design a game, one of them even got picked up from FGL!

What I found last time, and this seems to be even more the case this time, is that my mind goes into overdrive the week before the compo. The day job goes slower. Hundreds of game ideas begin to fly around in my head, every now and then the odd one popping right out and shaking its arse in my face. Making a nuisance of itself until I make the effort to scribble down a quick summary of the core mechanic.

Then of course work goes even slower than it was already because I want to be making games instead of just doing my day job.

So yeah. I’m REALLY looking forward to the upcoming Ludum Dare, but it really can’t come soon enough!

Come talk to me on twitter @myscreaminbrain if you want to keep me distracted for the week and help work go that little bit faster!

Until then then

First time for everything

Posted by (twitter: @triplevisgames)
Friday, April 20th, 2012 10:41 am

Just wanting to say “Hi!” – this is my first Ludum Dare, first game jam thingy. New to this whole game making thing, fiddled around in XNA but looking at Flash for this so going to watch flashpunk and flixel tutorials on the intertelly and see which looks easier… But for now it is tea time!

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